This past week we have been discussing classical liberalism and civic republicanism. Jennet asked us to think of someone that embodies either. Over the break, I watched a couple documentaries, and even read a biography on Steve Jobs. He’s a fascinating person. So when we were reading these articles on classic liberalism. He was the one person that stuck out in my head.
I found this video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. He shares three stories that are embedded with classic liberalism and individuality. But one quote that stuck out to me was towards the end of his speech when he says, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped with dogma, which is living with the results of other peoples thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition- they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Everything about this quote screams individuality and insists on the dangers of group thinking. It goes against everything that civic republicans hold near and dear to them.
Over the course of ten years, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak took Apple Computers, a company that was founded in Jobs’ parents garage into a multi-billion dollar company. How did they do it? With individual creative genius. According to Emerson and Rand, there are many paths to finding the good. Jobs embodies this wholly when he drops out of college because he is not interested in the required courses. After he dropped out, he began attending random classes that he found interesting or wanted to learn more about. In retrospect, he was glad he followed his intuition because he was able to create something that was more useful to the world. Like Emerson and Rand, Jobs would have found conformity a sin- the man didn’t even wear shoes for most of his life! Most people would think of the good as attending and graduating college, getting a decent job and living a middle class life. Jobs didn’t understand the concept and felt it was a waste of time, he envisioned more for himself.
Last class we talked about the bigger economic risks of being an individual. These can also be proven as Jobs was fired from his own company because he was considered too big of a financial risk- he basically did whatever he wanted with the company and designed anything and everything he could get his hands on. (Even though when he was fired, it didn’t really matter financially, he was set for life. He still viewed this as a personal failure however, because he loved his job.) He didn’t let this failure stop him from creating, however. He then went on to form Next and Pixar, Next was bought by Apple in an interesting turn of events and Pixar became the most successful animation studio in the world. Later, when Apple was on the verge of innovative and financial collapse, the company extended their hand to Jobs and asked for him to come back and use his individual creativity to revive the company. He then became the CEO of his company again. Jobs’ individual failures didn’t always apply to his job, even though that was the most public. But he saw those failures as building blocks to help him accomplish something greater the next time. Though the fear of failure is in all of us in some way, Jobs and Emerson and Ran would say that it’s better to try something on your own and fail- at least you tried. The greatest failure would be to have never tried at all and go along with the group. In this case, you are failing yourself- and this is the greatest failure of all.